New Jersey has taken several measures to protect victims from domestic violence. The enactment of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in 1982 has been effective. The law includes a provision that permits victims to obtain a restraining order, which restricts the contact an alleged offender can have with a victim.
Thousands of temporary and final restraining orders are issued in Monmouth County courts every year. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a restraining order, its issuance will have a significant effect on your life. At worst, defendants have found themselves unable to return to their own homes and have been kept from seeing their children.
New Jersey Restraining Orders
There are two types of restraining orders in New Jersey: Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) and Final Restraining Orders (FROs). A judge ultimately determines the issuance of both.
If this is your first rodeo, there's a high likelihood that you've been issued a TRO. You don't have the right to be present for the TRO hearing. A judge can issue a TRO without your knowledge if they believe it is necessary to protect someone's life, health, or well-being. Even if the plaintiff can't be in court, a judge may issue a TRO based on their sworn testimony of someone representing the plaintiff if they are physically or mentally incapable of filing the TRO personally. The judge will need to agree that the circumstances are sufficiently urgent to excuse the plaintiff's failure to appear in court.
After the judge issues a TRO, the police will serve it on the defendant. If you've received a TRO, the police should also serve you with the date of the final hearing, which should be held sometime within the next few weeks, usually within ten days. It's recommended that you cooperate when law enforcement eventually seizes your firearms.
If you live with the person who sought the TRO, you won't be able to return to your home while the order is in effect. It's important to note that even though you may own the residence or if you were there first, with a TRO in effect, you'd still be required to move out.
TROs last until a judge issues a FRO, removes it, or issues a further court order.
FROs are a permanent replacement of TROs. In New Jersey, there is currently no time limit on FROs. Before these orders are implemented, a final hearing will be conducted at the Family Division of Monmouth County Superior Court. Both you and the plaintiff will be given the opportunity to provide testimony to consider in the decision to issue (or refute issuing) a FRO.
A judge will only issue a FRO if they find by a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship, meaning they are current or former household members, were in an intimate relationship, or have a child together.
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence like assault, harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or making threats.
- There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further acts of domestic violence.
The hearing and all evidence presented must conform to court rules and the rules of evidence in New Jersey. Therefore, having an attorney for a FRO hearing is essential. These hearings are decided by the strength of either side's arguments and evidence. An attorney can build a solid defense for you that can significantly turn the tide of this legal battle.
Restraining Orders and Child Custody
If a parent commits domestic violence, New Jersey family law courts can restrict or remove that parent's visitation rights. In domestic violence cases, this often happens during a final restraining order hearing. When considering whether to remove or restrict parental visitation or custody, the judge will consider:
- Was the domestic violence aimed at the children, the parent, or both?
- Is the parent charged with domestic violence still a threat to the kids or other parent?
- Does the defendant have a history of domestic violence?
- How many times or how often did domestic violence occur?
- Does the defendant have a criminal record or pending criminal cases?
- Was anyone injured as a result of domestic violence?
- The testimony of police officers and other witnesses.
Based on all of the evidence and testimony, the judge may order the defendant to attend domestic violence counseling, anger management courses, parenting classes, or limit or remove parental visitation temporarily until completed. In more extreme cases, a judge may permanently revoke a defendant's child custody or visitation rights. As a result, it's essential to consult an experienced criminal law attorney who is well versed in family law and restraining order litigation before heading into a final restraining order hearing.
A Restraining Order Can Affect Your Job
A New Jersey restraining order is a civil rather than criminal matter. This status means that a restraining order won't turn up on a standard criminal background check. However, the New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry contains the information of all restraining order defendants. This database is public, searchable, and employers can find the information in more extensive background checks.
Moreover, anyone with a restraining order against them may not own or possess firearms legally. If your job requires the use of a firearm or requires a security clearance, a restraining order could affect your employment. A FRO can have long-lasting consequences, making it so important to seek legal guidance from an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney.
Violating a Restraining Order
If you're thinking about contacting the plaintiff despite a TRO or FRO, it'd be in your best interest to reconsider. Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense in Monmouth County. You'll be charged with criminal contempt charges that could potentially result in jail time and hefty fines. A second violation of a restraining order can result in 30 days in jail.
Have You Been Issued a Restraining Order in Monmouth County? Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
The threat of domestic violence is a serious matter that shouldn't be undermined. Due to the nature of these cases, however, much of what transpired is up for speculation. Essentially, it's your word against your the victim's, and in a situation with such high stakes, it's imperative you have reliable legal counsel to defend you.
Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience and knowledge in this legal area, as he's helped many people in this predicament navigate the legal process. He can do the same for you. For more information about how to successfully defend your restraining order, contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.